Charlotte Bobcats Boost Playoff Push with Gary Neal Trade

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2014

MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 2: Gary Neal #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles the basketball with D.J. Augustin #14 of the Toronto Raptors defending in the second half of play at Bradley Center on November 2, 2013 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

The Charlotte Bobcats have been after perimeter scoring for weeks, and they may have finally landed it in the form of Gary Neal.

ESPN's Marc Stein reported the four-player deal with the Milwaukee Bucks:

The principle players involved are Neal and Ramon Sessions. And if it were only those two, this deal probably would't have moved the needle much for the Bobcats.

Sessions may not be as good a shooter, but he's younger and more efficient overall than Neal:


Gary Neal11.4.500.462.195.4014.614.097
Ramon Sessions14.8.509.425.503.1465.026.6102
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2014.


It's the inclusion of Luke Ridnour that really makes this deal a good one for the Bobcats. He's having a down year toiling away in Milwaukee, but Ridnour's a proven commodity.

Last season he started all 82 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves and averaged 11.5 points and 3.8 assists. He spent a lot of that time at the 2, playing alongside Ricky Rubio.

He showed the ability to run the point earlier in his career. In 11 NBA seasons, he's posted an assist percentage of 27.9. The only Bobcat who can boast a better career percentage is starting point guard Kemba Walker.

And when you consider this part of the swap is essentially Ridnour for Jeff Adrien, it's a no-brainer for Charlotte. The fourth-year forward isn't even a part of the rotation, as he's averaged just 10.2 minutes in 25 appearances. 

On the other side, the reason for including Ridnour from Milwaukee's perspective is financial. According to Stein:

The Bobcats have been chasing the disgruntled Neal for some time, but Milwaukee balked at a pure Neal-for-Sessions swap because Sessions is making $5 million this season compared to Neal's $3.25 million.

Adding Ridnour to the trade puts the financial onus back on Charlotte.

It's a financial burden Charlotte is willing to bear if it helps it reach the playoffs. The Bobcats are currently in the No. 8 slot in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games ahead of the ninth-place Detroit Pistons.

Adding the steady hand of Ridnour and the outside shooting of Neal should help them secure that position.

For his career, Neal is shooting 39.3 percent from three-point range, and he has shown the ability to get white-hot in big moments.

In case you don't remember, this is what he did to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the 2013 Finals:

If he can provide occasional outbursts like that for the Bobcats, he'll open up a lot for Charlotte's top two scorers.

Al Jefferson is having a monster year (20.5 points and 10.5 rebounds) without much floor spacing from his fellow starters. When he shares the floor with Neal, defenders will be more reluctant to collapse on Jefferson's post catches for fear of Neal lighting them up from the outside.

His presence should also help Walker, who thrives as a penetrator. Most defensive schemes have defenders on the wings at least feigning help, if not coming all the way over, to stop drives from the top of the key. Doing so could be a lot more costly if the offensive player on the wing is a shooter.

Think about it: A defender on the perimeter is a lot more likely to leave a career 28.3 percent three-point shooter like Gerald Henderson than a marksman like Neal.

Even if it only opens up two or three driving lanes a game for Walker, it will have been worth it.

That, in combination with the steady hand and veteran leadership of Ridnour, makes this deal a solid upgrade for the Bobcats.

It's not enough to make them a potential No. 8-over-No. 1 upset like the 2011 Memphis Grizzlies or 1994 Denver Nuggets, but at least gives fans something to root for beyond the regular season.


Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of and and are current as of Feb. 19, 2014.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.